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Star Trek Beyond is the third film in the recent rebooted franchise. It is directed by Justin Lin (Fast & Furious) from a screenplay by Simon Pegg, who also plays Montgomery “Scotty” Scott. The plot revolves around the crew of the starship exploring a remote area of Federation space, in the middle of their five-year mission, when they encounter a new alien race that attacks their ship, forcing them to abandon it and escape to a nearby unknown planet where they meet a new enemy with a well-deserved hatred for what Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his mission stand for.
News of a third film in the series was not surprising as both the 2009 Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek into Darkness performed strong at the box office, despite a lot of harsh criticism for some significant modifications to the beloved characters and setting. That was especially true for Into Darkness, which took absurd attempts in trying to conceal the film’s real antagonist and not betray that it was in fact a remake of the 1982 classic Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, not to mention some drastic changes to that story that were not well-received. Director J. J. Abrams even went so far as apologizing for the missteps:
“Any movie, any story has a fundamental conversation happening during it. There’s a fundamental argument; there’s a central question. And I didn’t have it…I felt like, in a weird way, it was a little bit of a collection of scenes that were written by my friends – brilliantly talented writers – who I somehow misled in trying to do certain things. And yet, I found myself frustrated by my choices, and unable to hang my hat on an undeniable thread of the main story. So then I found myself on that movie basically tap-dancing as well as I could to try and make the sequences as entertaining as possible.”
– J. J. Abrams interview on Buzzfeed
As Abrams swapped directing duties for another epic space adventure, the job fell into action movie maker Justin Lin’s hands to take the Enterprise in a new direction (but only after original choice Roberto Orci got dumped). As Lin is best known for his role in four of the Fast & Furious films, a franchise about a team of renegades who drive cars, well, fast and furiously, it seemed like an unlikely choice. Star Trek, already on unstable ground, or shall I say in deteriorating orbit, was taking a gamble.
The first trailer for the curiously but aptly title Beyond proved that things were not only going to be different, they were going to be wildly so. Or so we thought. With the success of Marvel’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy (2014) clearly having huge influence, trailer #1 was about recalling as much of GotG as possible. Take a look.
We’ve already written about our impressions of this clip here. Needless to say, we weren’t entirely on board. The shift to comedy and the obvious grab at attention with the soundtrack choice made it all feel a little to obvious. We weren’t the only ones and interestingly the Star Trek homefront got very quiet. The hype for the film quickly faded. Then, in mid-March, a few months after trailer #1 launched, came word that parts of the film were undergoing reshoots with the cast having to come back. A new character was being added (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and the story was being tweaked. Pegg himself, who took over writing duties from the start admits that the goal was to reduce worries from the studio that the original script was “too Star Trek-y” (a very worrisome comment), had his doubts about the marketing department’s handling of the material:
“I didn’t love it, because I know there’s a lot more to the film. There’s a lot more story, and a lot more character stuff, and a lot more what I would call ‘Star Trek stuff.”
– Simon Pegg interview with Hey You Guys
Even original Star Trek cast member George Takei weighed in. And then the poster changed. The studio’s two-year promise to return Star Trek to its roots for a more upbeat adventure were falling flat. Hard. Skip ahead and it’s now time for the second trailer and my have things changed. Watch and see if you can tell the difference:
The tone has changed quite a bit, even though much of what we are seeing is the same from trailer #1. That has everything to do with the music, which abandons the playful rock music The Beastie Boys Sabotage lent in favor of a more classical approach, with a sweeping orchestral motif and heavy Inception-like moments that are now all too ubiquitous in action trailers. While the second trailer is far more inviting than the first, and panders more to the Star Trek-y crowd, it all feels familiar and like nearly every Star Trek film since the late 1980s, can’t get the proper studio support it needs, but worse, has no real understanding of what creator Gene Roddenberry‘s vision really was. Pegg assures that this is character-driven and story-based, and we understand that the marketing department’s job is to interest as many people as possible in coming to the theater, admittedly not an easy job, but unlike Star Wars, it doesn’t trust its own name in doing that job. When you have a studio worrying that their Star Trek movie is too Star Trek-y then there are serious concerns. Nobody is ever going to complain that Star Wars is getting too Star Wars-y. And that’s the problem. Star Trek has been around a full ten years longer than Star Wars and could have been an equal in the space movie universe, but instead of appealing to and expanding the core audience that made the franchise popular, this generic cobbling together of tonally-deaf action and casting it like a wide net only proves time and time again that it doesn’t work. While it’s highly doubtful based on these two trailers, we’ll just have to wait and see if Star Trek Beyond can really take us where no one has gone before.
Star Trek Beyond open July 22, 2016
Simon Pegg, Doug Jung
Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zachary Quinto, John Cho